Who's Afraid of Background Independence?

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Rickles, Dean
preprint description
Background independence is generally considered to be ‘the mark of distinction’ of general relativity. However, there is still confusion over exactly what background independence is and how, if at all, it serves to distinguish general relativity from other theories. There is also some confusion over the philosophical implications of background independence, stemming in part from the definitional problems. In this paper I attempt to make some headway on both issues. In each case I argue that a proper account of the observables of such theories goes a long way in clarifying matters. Further, I argue, against common claims to the contrary, that the fact that these observables are relational has no bearing on the debate between substantivalists and relationalists, though I do think it recommends a structuralist ontology, as I shall endeavour to explain.